Why is vocabulary important? This question comes about often when students are studying for a vocabulary test or learning subject specific terminology for quizzes and tests. It may seem unnecessary when students are in the midst of it, but building an excellent vocabulary is a useful endeavor for everyone that can start at anytime. These are four reasons I think having an extensive vocabulary is important:
1. It allows for effective communication - Often times when speaking with someone, you may hear them using too many fillers (e.g “um”, “uh”). Or they are attempting to make a point, and while struggling for words they suddenly say “Well, you know what I mean.” Having an arsenal of words at your disposal when speaking eliminates both of these situations and enables one to be explicit rather than vague when sharing and idea, opinion or during an average conversation.
2. It improves listening skills - When you can completely understand what is being said, the chances of “zoning out” are minimal.
3. It improves writing skills - Having the ability to express your self in writing is a little more challenging than when speaking. A robust vocabulary is essential for effective writing. It also significantly helps with correct spelling and usage of homophones (e.g. their, there, they’re, your, you’re, to, too, two)
4. It is critical to being a successful reader - Comprehension, which is is the ultimate goal of reading, improves when one knows all of the words being read. Words that you don’t understand create gaps making it difficult to understand what you are reading.
The following are some ways to improve one’s vocabulary:
1. Read, Read, Read - Read many different genres of books. As you read, write down words that you don’t know. Try to figure out the meaning from context before looking up the definition. Once you know the definition, write all of these words in a notebook that can be used as a resource. Writing the words in a notebook will utilize the visual and kinesthetic modalities of learning. Also read magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, blogs, etc. All reading is good.
2. Talk - Engage in conversations. Hearing others speak can result in learning new words, and you can use those words when speaking and writing.
3. Use a thesaurus - Using a thesaurus, exposes you to more advanced equivalents of simple words.
4. Receive a “word of the day” via e-mail - sign up to receive a word of the day. You will receive a word, its meaning and how it is used in a sentence. One website to use is www.dictionary.com.
5. Play word games - Scrabble, Boggle and crossword puzzles are good games to play. There are also some online word games to play (e.g. Bookworm, Text Twist, Word Vault).
6. Learn prefixes, suffixes, and roots - Many English words come from Latin or Greek words: e.g. Greek - biography (bio = life) Latin - radius (radi - beam, spoke)
Do you have any suggestions to add to this list?